All at-risk children in SC will soon be able to enroll in state-funded 4K programs

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – State lawmakers are set to fund an expansion of free full-day 4K for all at-risk four-year-olds in the state.

A budget conference committee okayed a measure that would set aside $34 million for the expansion. Next week, South Carolina lawmakers are set to approve this and the full-budget plan.

Governor Henry McMaster proposed the idea in his executive budget recommendations. The proposal has had bipartisan support at the State House for a few years now.

Right now, the program is open to children living in poverty, who are Medicaid eligible, homeless or in the foster care system in 39 out of South Carolina’s 46 counties.

South Carolina First Steps said this change will nearly double the number of children who could enroll in full-day 4K programs for free.

Executive Director Georgia Mjartan said, “We know this closes that gap and ensures children who would otherwise start kindergarten not ready, with this program, they’ll be just as ready as any other child.”

According to Mjartan, a recent study shows only 27% of children who started kindergarten in South Carolina this year were ready. “That’s unacceptable. We need to work together as a state to make sure all children start with that fair chance at a good life.”

In a statement State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said these programs are the building blocks needed for success in kindergarten and beyond.

You can read her full statement below:

“It is imperative that our youngest learners be prepared for success by the time they enter our school doors as kindergartners. High quality, free 4K programs offered by South Carolina’s public school districts and First Steps network of private providers have shown promising results and helped provide the building blocks needed for success in kindergarten and beyond. The funding provided in this year’s state budget will expand the current offerings statewide to ensure that all at-risk students have the opportunity to receive a high quality early childhood education. This funding shows that South Carolina understands the importance of early childhood and the Department looks forward to collaborating with First Steps and continuing the expansion of 4K in our state in the months and years to come.”

Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education

The South Carolina Education Association said they believe this is a good move. President Sherry East said this will also help kindergarten teachers across the state if more of their students are ready. She said, “You have to differentiate between the student who knows their ABC’s and those who are stepping in a school for the first time at the age of 5.”

She is hopeful this will also make sure more students in South Carolina are reading at grade level by the third grade or even sooner.

For more information on free full-day 4K options click or tap here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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